Monday, March 21, 2005

AITMS 2005, Day 1

The 3rd Asia IT Ministers Summit (AITMS) was hosted by His Excellency Shaikh Ali bin Kalifah bin Salman Al Khalifa, Minister of Transportation, Kingdom of Bahrain. He's also the son of the Prime Minister, and first cousin of the King of Bahrain.

The Summit was attended by Ministerial delegations from 32 Asian and Middle East nations. Beside me below is the delegation from Oman. The distinguished-looking gentleman in the suit behind me is our very own Ambassador Ed Maglaya. He heads a staff of 20 Filipinos in our embassy, and looks after the interests of 22,000 plus Filipinos working and living in Bahrain.

Each head of delegation was provided a workspace complete with red velour folder, ballpen, black leather blotter, microphone stand and speaker, and a Ferrari-Acer notebook with matching mouse. The only item we were allowed to take home was the pen and the red folder. 8-)

The first day of the summit was filled with presentations from each delegation. Our hosts spoke about their vision for a Bahrain Information Exchange, with all schools connected to the Internet by 2008, and all citizens holding a smart ID card containing citizen data such as health records, licenses, etc.

The minister from Egpyt, H.E. Dr. Tareq Kamal, Minister of Telecommunications and Information Technology, pointed out that ICT threatens more upheavals by widening the divide between the haves and the have-nots. So in their country, they are pushing for "smart villages", and PCs for every home and every SME.

H.E. Mr. Awais Ahmed Khain Leghari, Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunications, Islamic Republic of Pakistan, mentioned that they deregulated their telecomm industry 3 years ago, and the number of subscribers went from 2m to 15m! They are now in the process of legislating a cybersecurity act to give confidence to investors. Call centers catering to Arabic speakers in the Middle East is a sweet spot for future growth.

When it came to the Philippines' turn, I proudly presented the CICT Strategic Roadmap. I told a story about how a farm worker in Negros used to waste one whole day just to travel to Bacolod to find out his SSS balances, and now with community e-centers, it takes less than 2 hours. Another story which enthralled the summit was how SMS was used in mobilizing the masses for People Power 2!

One common thread among the country presentations: ICT is a national priority, and the national vision embodies ICT as the means for transforming society, alleviating poverty, and improving education. How does the Philippines compare?

Well, we are lucky to have President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo leading the way. In the Cabinet meeting which I attended last December, she asked the CICT to produce the 5-year ICT roadmap. In February, she launched the National Strategic Plan for ICT in Basic Education, a joint CICT-DepEd initiative. And in March, she christened the Philippine Cyberservices Corridor, a joint CICT-DTI Initiative. Soon, hopefully within the year, she will be able to sign the bill creating the Department of Information and Communications Technology!


At Thu Apr 28, 12:18:00 PM, Blogger Noel M. said...

Hey Dondi
Looks like the Bahrain summit went great!Suerte naman, you not only got to see the F1 circuit, but in First CLass style pa...
Hey - I do remember that day we all met in Makati, before proceeding to EDSA. I can certainly back it up. I left my car in Valero and rode with you. IT seems we got there quite early as we were able to walk right up to the "stage" above the chapel. It was impossible to do that later on, due to the crowd and well, safety reasons too.
Hmm, good ol days...


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